Last week I shared the approach I took to do a personal retrospective to identify new habits I was going to start in the new year and other habits (addictions?) that I was going to stop.
So far so good. Of course it’s only the second week of the year.
How do I know so far so good? All of the habits I’ve started or stopped are somewhat measurable so it’s fairly easy to tell if I’m making progress.
The same is not always the case with your work on products.
In this week’s Inside Product Management, I share some ways you can determine whether you’re making progress and get an indication of what’s going on with your product.
Measure Success with Data
When an organization makes an investment, it is either a success or it is a failure.
If it is a failure, the organisation learns (normally about its customers) so that its subsequent investments have a greater chance of success.
If an executive decides that the investment is a success when it is a failure, then the organisation is denied the opportunity to learn and it may continue to make poor investments.
Executives who declare success based their opinion rather than data are cheating the organisations that they are morally obliged to serve and protect. They are cheating the organisation out of an opportunity to learn.
Outcome Over Output
Whenever possible, I like to gauge progress based on outcome – how have we satisfied our customers needs? A popular technique to examine outcome is Objectives and Key Results (OKR). There are several good resources about this technique so here is a good compilation of the best ones for learning about OKR.
Not quite outcome, but output with context
Measuring progress based on outcome is ideal. It’s also difficult so teams often take the more expedient route of measuring output.
The parking lot diagram provides you a way to track progress based on output, but do it in a way that incorporates context.
It allows you to show if you’re working on what you think is the right thing.
How are we doing? Look at the Wall.
Good progress reporting is always up to date, and does not require any additional effort to put together. Information radiators fit the bill nicely. They can serve a few purposes, including help your team remember what they are working on and simultaneously communicate that information to those outside of your team.
Product people may find that the discovery board a particularly helpful information radiator focused on backlog refinement.
How much progress should we expect?
They indicate how confident the team is in what you’re asking them to do. They indicate what’s small enough to work on right now, and what’s too big to take on in a single chunk. They indicate when you haven’t done your own due diligence as a product person, or when your team feels that they need to spend more time thinking about the solution.
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Talk to you next week,
Kent J. McDonald